Mandre, ''Third World Calling (Opus II)''


Legend has it that before Steven Spielberg recommended John Williams to George Lucas, 20th Century Fox was planning to score Star Wars with disco. Sure, people scoff at the idea now, and nobody can really imagine that big grand space opera with a 4/4 dance beat behind it, but all the same it's fun to speculate what it might've turned out like. After all, this was 1977, when disco, funk and prog artists were obsessed with synthesized, futuristic-sounding jams that evoked some strange, distant galaxy: Parliament's "Flash Light", Space's "Magic Fly", Donna Summer's "I Feel Love" -- and, unfairly lost to the cut-out bin of history, the debut album of Motown's own Mandré.

Known in his earthly guise as Andre Lewis, a keyboard player who appeared on albums by Buddy Miles and Frank Zappa, Mandré debuted on Motown in 1977 as a masked, extraterrestrial being who was equally talented with outlandish, comedic reinterpretations (Zappa's "Dirty Love"; Barrett Strong's "Money") and unique, complex synth-funk epics. Across four albums from 1977 through 1980 (the last one, 4, released independently), Mandré recorded a number of high-concept "Opus" compositions, including this one, "Third World Calling (Opus II)". This fan-made, space-themed video -- complete with a visual namedrop of Parliament's astro-funk masterpiece Mothership Connection -- isn't all that much to look at, but you're in luck if you like keyboard solos, since this track's got about fifty of 'em. And anyone leery of prog tendencies should keep in mind that there's also a rock-solid funk backbeat to this, making this one of those rare songs that's as danceable as it is virtuosic.


Mandré is, sadly, out of print, but if you've got a turntable you can find an LP copy for a reasonable price on MusicStack.